Budget travel in Panama: How much do you need

Last updated on September 17th, 2021 at 07:16 pm

In this post, we will break down things and information you might need if you will travel or go to Panama soon. We’ll post budget travel in Panama prices and more information that will be helpful for travelers heading to Panama. Also Panama sim card for tourist, Panama travel tips, what to wear in Panama, Panamanian food, how to get from Panama airport to city center, vegetarian food in Panama and Panama city airport to Bocas del Toro.

Panama is a country on the isthmus linking Central and South America. It is also known as the “Crossroads of the Americas” due to its privileged position between the two sides of America. It is the only place in the world where you can see the sun rise on the Pacific and set on the Atlantic and I think this is one of the most sight to see while in Panama. Formed by shifting tectonic plates millions of years ago, Panama has one of the most unique geographies of any country in the world. And I believe that this is its main charm.

Is it safe/difficult to travel to Panama?

If you want to know if it is safe traveling or going to Panama, well, it is safe. Although located in Central America, where crime rate is high, Panama is the exception. Crime in Panama City is a very low occurrence if you stick to the usual areas, as well as in the beaches and the interior.

Best time to visit Panama

The best time to visit Panama is during the summer dry season from mid-December to mid-April. The Panama Canal Zone has a tropical climate ranging from 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit, with high humidity year-round. You can also come to Panama in February, March, September and October for the least chance of rain.

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Visa in Panama

Visitors to Panama require a visa unless they are citizens of one of the eligible countries like Bolivia, Russia and Turkey who do not require a visa for up to 180 days. All visitors must hold a passport valid for 3 months as well.

Cash and ATM in Panama

Panama’s official currency is the US dollar. ATM machines are common in the major cities. Often located in an isolated room, air-conditioned, with glass walls and the fee is usually $3 with the limit of $500 per transaction. They are also available in the airport once you land in Panama. Be aware though that in in more remote areas, credit cards might not be of use since in Panama City, not every store will be available to accept credit cards.

Internet in Panama

Public wi-fi access in Panama is increasingly common in bus terminals, plazas, libraries and restaurants. Hotels and hostels in more tourist-oriented areas have wi-fi and some computer terminals for use by the guests; the Guna Yala and Darién regions are generally exceptions. If you badly need to use the internet, you can visit the local school – it’s often possible to pick up a signal outside.

There are also available sim cards to use if you want your own internet in your phone. Depending on the plan or internet provider, you can get as much as unlimited data for 7 days for $10 or so. You can add a payment if you want an add-on like messaging for $7 or more.

Read here if you want to be connected online when traveling the world!

Food budget travel in Panama

Budget travel in Panama
Image courtesy of Alf Altendorf

If you’ll eat meals on food stalls and local stands, a meal can cost up to $3 to $4. It can consists of rice, chicken, beans, and maybe another side plus a drink. You can also find cheap cafes and sandwich shops around for cheaper options of $2 to $3 a meal. Beer is usually $0.50 to $1 during hostel happy hours while mixed drinks costs $2. At an average, a person can live in a day in Panama for $1 for food budget travel in Panama. You will be able to visit local restaurants with this budget and you can go down if you go for street food.

Accommodation budget in Panama

Hostel and dorms can only cost $10 a night in Panama, which is a fair amount if you’re on a budget travel. They are decent and quite comfortable. Of course, there are also mid-range hotels in Panama. They can cost up to $50 a night if you want a more comfortable place to stay at while exploring Panama. For budget travelers, it’s safe to say that $20 to $25 a night in a hotel is a good budget.

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Tours and entrance fees in Panama

Budget travel in Panama
Panama Canal | Image courtesy of Robbie

There are a lot of attractions and scenic places to see in Panama. Some are free, but there are fees on most of them. In Panama Canal, entrance fee differs locals, visitors/tourists or students. Locals will only pay $3, while tourists should pay $15 and students are $10. San Blas day tour is quite expensive for $115 inclusive transportation, lunch and island hopping for a couple of days. Of course this is a worthy activity! For a cheaper and quicker way to explore Panama, you can avail the Hop-on, Hop-off sightseeing bus where you’ll be sitting on a top deck of a bus going around the city for $18 or so. 

Local transportation in Panama

Budget travel in Panama
Image courtesy of Richard Collier

There are historical train between Panama City and Colón that runs parallel to the canal, and is operated by the Panama Canal Railway Company. They have metrobus that can get you around the Panama city and its outskirts. There are also taxis for a more convenient and comfortable ride. Just a tip, before even getting into a taxi, state your destination and settle on a fare. Panamanian taxis don’t have meters, but there are standard fares between Panama City’s neighborhoods. Taxis are relatively cheap and easiest mode of transportation especially for tourists. If you’re going to Amador Causeway, the fare costs between $5 to $10.

Budget travel in Panama

For budget travelers, Panama is a good place to go to since their prices might not be the cheapest in Central America, but they are relatively cheap compared to most places. You can get by a day in Panama on a budget for $30 to $35, inclusive of accommodation, food, transportation and maybe an entrance fee to 1 to 2 local attraction. Can go up the budget if you go for island hopping in San Blas Islands and you want to eat in restaurants. Also accommodation can be expensive in Panama if you look for comfort and luxury.

Ruben Arribas is a Spanish traveler who has traveled more than 70+ countries around the world. Now based in the Philippines!